I remember Sakshi Tanwar from back in the early 2000s. As an actor, I’d never noticed her. She was just this saree-clad character, crying her eyes out every other day in a never-ending daily soap which had my mother glued to the TV every night. Never thought I’d deliberately watch her on screen.
But “Mai: A Mother’s Rage,” one of the latest releases on Netflix, gave me that chance. “Mai” is a Hindi-language thriller drama that marks the comeback of the television star who had in all these years built a rather stereotypical image. In Mai, Tanwar breaks her own norms and features in a role she has never tried before.
Sheel Chaudhary (Tanwar) is a middle-class working woman and mother.
She works as a nurse at an elderly-care home while her husband Yash (Vivek Mushran) is a freelancing handyman. All is well in the Chadudhary household until one day Sheel witnesses her daughter Supriya (Wamiqa Gabbi) being hit by a truck right in front of her eyes.
The family is in shock but soon Sheel realizes that there’s more than meets the eye in this case. Her daughter’s accident seems intentional. Determined to find the truth, Sheel starts sniffing around for clues and ends up unraveling a conspiracy that involves powerful people who could end her life. But as a grieving mother, Sheel transforms from a caring nurse to a ferocious detective who can beg, borrow or kill to get justice for her slain daughter.
This transition in Sheel’s character is where Mai’s success lies. It is abrupt but impactful and Tanwar has pulled it off with skills she has probably never shown before on screen. Creator of the web series Atul Mongia and director Anshai Lal have also ensured that Tanwar gets full support in acting as well as production.
With only six episodes, each of around 45-50 minutes, Mai is a ‘watch in a weekend’ kind of series that really entertains you for every minute you spend on it. The series moves at a medium pace without diverging from the original story. There are no backstories or sideward glances, which make this series more like a feature film that never veers off its central character.
While the writing and direction are commendable, the acting steals the show. As mentioned, as most of the characters do not get a backstory in Mai, Tanwar in the lead gets to own most of the screen time. And she deservingly takes over every bit of spotlight with her acting prowess.
We’ve talked about Sheel’s transition in the series but it’s never absolute or complete. At times, she succumbs to her husband and his family as an unimposing middle-class woman while in the next scene, she is pouring boiling water over someone she thinks might be responsible for her daughter’s murder.
Even emotionally, Sheel’s interaction with her daughter’s ex-boyfriend SP Farooque Siddiqui (Ankur Ratan), whom she partly blames for her daughter’s fate, is taxing enough. But her biggest challenge is facing the powerful businessman Jawahar Vyas (Prashant Narayanan) and his aide Neelam (Raima Sen), who could be the main culprits behind her daughter’s murder.
Also, her interactions with the police, the goons, her colleagues and her own family calls on Sheel to wear different masks to hide her true plans. This complexity in characterization and situations makes Sheel one of the strongest protagonists we have seen recently. Actor Tanwar impresses the audience she had probably never catered to in the past. Tanwar fills every layer of her character with her natural acting and is a treat throughout.
Who should watch it?
‘Mai’ is a thriller that will delight all kinds of audiences. There is little not to not like about the series, so we can recommend this to a broad audience (although the language might not be appropriate for young children). Sakshi Tanwar’s fans have probably watched it by now. Even if you have not, you’ll still enjoy it.